Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Oliver: Happy Flowers - I Dropped My Ice Cream Cone [Peel Session] (1 March 1992)

I never intend this blog to be topical.  It just falls out that way.

It's fair to say that the words "an acquired taste" best sum up the work of Charlottesville, Virginia duo, Happy Flowers.  If you listen to this selection and dismiss it as unlistenable rubbish, I urge you to listen to it in context, namely the Peel Session they recorded in June 1990 and which had been issued through Strange Fruit a year later.  When I first heard I Dropped My Ice Cream Cone, I had so many instincts telling me to ignore it, but a couple of tendrils trailed out behind it which wouldn't let it go.  One of them is quite prosaic; namely that its guitar improvisation roots itself at a low pitch rather than an atonal one.  It's scrambled and desperate, but it sounds good.  It also operates as a perfect contrast to the vocal by Mr. Anus (Charlie Kramer) which, in recounting the excitement and catastrophe of buying and dropping TWO ice-cream cones, also sounds scrambled and desperate, but absolutely right.

Mr. Anus and his band mate, Mr. Horribly Charred Infant (John Beers) wrote from the perspective of post toddler/pre double digit age children.  They understood that children at that age are, as in their toddler stage, only a scintilla away from a full-blown psychotic meltdown when their universe is disrupted.  Furthermore, at ages 6-9, they can start to give voice to their frustrations.  Their work chronicles by degrees the different levels of resentment, distress and nuclear anger that beats within the body and soul of children.  The trivial tragedies that occupied Happy Flowers's world could most likely be found in Greg Pembroke's 2013 photo-book, Reasons My Kid Is Crying, though they also touched on more understandable causes for childhood trauma.

In listening to some Happy Flowers music, I've been struck by how much the mood of their songs seems to have penetrated beyond childhood behaviour into daily communication between adults nowadays.  Rage. Spite. Irritation - it's everywhere and on both sides of the divide; whether you're slagging off the Snowflake Generation or getting irate about whinging white, middle class voters.  It feels like a Happy Flowers world now.  And it doesn't promise to get any better in the near future.

Last word to Peel:  "Sometimes, I lie on the ground and wave my chubby little legs in frustration that the Happy Flowers (sic) no longer exist."

The characters in Happy Flowers's songs grow up to produce songs like this:

Videos courtesy of Vibracobra23 Redux (Happy Flowers) and Alan Ruiz (The Heats).

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